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Getting to know Rutgers

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Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood shouts to his players from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday Sept. 12, 2015, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood shouts to his players from the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Washington State, Saturday Sept. 12, 2015, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

You won’t see Rutgers football coach Kyle Flood on the field Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium, in Piscataway, New Jersey. As you’ve probably learned by now, the Scarlet Knights’ head coach is in the midst of serving a three-game suspension for rules violations and a string of off-the-field issues involving Rutgers players.

An investigation found that Flood emailed and met in person with a RU faculty member even though he knew — or should have known — of the university’s policies prohibiting coach-initiated contact with faculty members regarding students’ academic standing.

What’s more, Rutgers captain and standout wide receiver Leonte Carroo was suspended after facing assault charges in a domestic violence issue. On Sept. 16, Carroo pleaded not guilty to the charge in which authorities say he slammed a woman onto concrete after a football game.

As the AP reported, the Carroo incident “is the latest stain on a program that has seen six other players kicked off the team this month after being arrested on charges that include armed robbery and home-invasion burglary and rioting. One of the former players was also charged in two home-invasion robberies.”

All that disarray has led many who follow Kansas football to circle this week’s game at Rutgers (11 a.m. kickoff on Big Ten Network) as one of the few winnable dates on the schedule.

But before deciding if that’s the case, we should probably get to know the important remaining members of the Scarlet Knights, because those players will be the ones trying to extend KU’s 33-game losing streak away from Memorial Stadium.

Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson, center, talks with Rutgers running back Paul James (34) on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Rutgers interim head coach Norries Wilson, center, talks with Rutgers running back Paul James (34) on the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Penn State in State College, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Leading Rutgers in place of the suspended Flood is interim coach Norries Wilson. RU’s assistant head coach and running backs coach opened this unenviable stretch with a 28-3 loss at Penn State this past weekend. The Scarlet Knights never reached the end zone, in part because of meager field position: on average, RU started its first-half drives at its own 16-yard line; that average barely improved in the second half, to its own 20.

But if Kansas blows any special teams coverage, Rutgers (1-2) has just the weapon to flip the field. Here are some play-makers the Jayhawks (0-2) will have to keep in check in order to have a shot at a rare road victory.

FIVE SCARLET KNIGHTS TO WATCH

No. 1: RET/WR Janarion Grant | 5-11, 170, jr.

  • Washington State had no answers for Janarion Grant on Sept. 12, when the return specialist set a new Rutgers record with 337 all-purpose yards, including a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown (above) and a 100-yard kickoff return for a TD (below). The day made him an easy choice for Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week.

  • Grant, who also took a kickoff return to the house in RU’s season opener versus Norfolk State, has returned a kick 70 yards or more five times in his career.

  • So far this season, Grant has 93 receiving yards (10 catches) and 21 rushing yards (one carry). Given KU’s defensive issues, the Jayhawks better be aware of him every time he appears in an offensive formation.

  • Grant had 105 receiving yards on eight receptions late last season against Maryland, and with his speed, he is a threat to burn KU’s secondary on any given snap.

No. 3: WLB Steve Longa | 6-1, 225, jr.

Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa (3) is seen during the second half of the Quick Lane Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, in Detroit. Rutgers defeated North Carolina 40-21. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa (3) is seen during the second half of the Quick Lane Bowl NCAA college football game against North Carolina, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, in Detroit. Rutgers defeated North Carolina 40-21. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • If Rutgers is playing, odds are linebacker Steve Longa is leading the team in tackles. In 29 career games with the Scarlet Knights, Longa has finished 20 of them with the most tackles.

  • Longa’s 251 career tackles give him the team lead among active players — by 107.

  • Averaging 8.7 tackles a game this season, Longa had made 15 tackles on passing plays.

  • On nine occasions at Rutgers, the linebacker has racked up 10 tackles or more. He had 14 vs. Washington State.

  • In his career, Longa has broken up seven passes, sacked a QB five times, recorded 12.5 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles and recovered two fumbles

  • On the Lombardi Award watch list.

No. 5: QB Chris Laviano | 6-3, 210, soph.

Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano, left, runs away from Nebraska cornerback Josh Mitchell (5) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Nebraska won 42-24. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano, left, runs away from Nebraska cornerback Josh Mitchell (5) in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Nebraska won 42-24. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

  • The Big Ten’s current leader in completion percentage, Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano has succeeded on 72% of his throws through three games, and has a passing efficiency mark of 148.0, which is fourth-best in his conference.

  • First-and-10 has been his favorite down-and-distance. Laviano is 25-for-32 on first-down pass plays, with 12 first downs and two touchdowns.

  • RU failed to score a touchdown in the sophomore’s first career road start, at Penn State, but he set new career highs with 27 completions, 42 attempts and 251 yards.

  • Laviano doesn’t appear to have a favorite target. He completed passes to 10 different teammates against both Washington State and Penn State…

  • … And there is an obvious reason for spreading the ball around. Three of his four touchdown passes in 2015 came to now suspended receiver Carroo in the season opener.

  • Laviano isn’t a huge running threat and can be sacked — good news for KU defensive ends Ben Goodman and Damani Mosby. His net average on rushing attempts (which include sacks in college) is -11.7 yards per game. PSU sacked the RU QB five times.

No. 31: FS Anthony Cioffi | 6-0, 200, jr.

  • KU quarterback Montell Cozart might not want to test Anthony Cioffi. The free safety already has two interceptions this season and four in his career.

  • Cioffi broke up a career-best three passes on Sept. 12 vs. WSU.

  • The free safety hasn’t had to do too much cleaning up on defense, with 11 solo tackles through three games.

  • In his 27-game career, Cioffi has nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

  • In 2013, Cioffi blocked a punt for a touchdown against Central Florida.

No. 8: RB Josh Hicks | 5-10, 215, soph.

  • Sophomore running back Josh Hicks leads Rutgers with 16 first downs gained, and is a perfect 5-for-5 in third-down rushes in that category (average of 5.6 yards on third-down carries).

  • Hicks ran for 118 yards vs. Norfolk State, marking his third 100-yard game, and scored two touchdowns (his only two this season to date).

  • Through three games, Hicks is picking up yardage in chunks, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. His 41 carries and 258 rushing yards lead Rutgers, which also uses RBs Paul James (31-112) and Robert Martin (24-150) a great deal.

  • Finished off his 2014 season with 202-yard performance and MVP honors at the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl, where RU handled North Carolina, 40-21.

Comments

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 9 months ago

Man, with all the stories about their lack of a coach and losing players, i thought we might have a chance to pull this one out until I read this: "The Big Ten’s current leader in completion percentage, Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano has succeeded on 72% of his throws through three games, and has a passing efficiency mark of 148.0, which is fourth-best in his conference." He's gonna shred our secondary... :(

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